Family Adventures · Historic US Route 20 · Museums and History · Northeast Iowa

March of the Museums-Waterloo’s Culture, Icons, & the Bosnian Sandwich

One of Iowa’s best public murals can be easily found in the heart of downtown Waterloo!

Waterloo, IA: Black Hawk County

The chill is beginning to settle in, but that doesn’t mean that Team Goodvin plans on slowing down. In fact, it’s the perfect time of year to get out. Over and over throughout the day and weekend. We’re talking getting the culture bug worked out and we know just the where to go for the remedy. The Iowa Gallivant heads north to Waterloo. Tractors…..Veterans museum…An imaginarium….Simulated cow milking! And that’s just the appetizer course.

Grout logo

Mid-afternoon and we roll into Waterloo ready for what they have to offer. The Grout Museum District is near downtown and hosts a series of buildings including the Grout Museum of History and Science, Bluedorn Science Imaginarium, 2 historic mansions, and our first stop of the day, Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum.

A view of Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo, IA.
It didn’t take long to find the Sullivan’s.

The story of the Sullivan Brothers can be told by many Iowans, military historians, and veterans alike. 5 brothers who were honored to serve in the US Navy during WWII on the USS Juneau. Tragically, the Juneau was sunk during the naval battle Guadalcanal. Nearly 700 sailors were killed in action, including all 5 Sullivan brothers serving on the ship. Needless to say, the Sullivan family and the city of Waterloo were gripped by the tragedy, and modern day Waterloo is continuing to tell their story. This moment is detailed, along with interpretations of every American conflict throughout our history. If you’re looking for a true education that’s fulfilling and shows true support for our veterans and their importance, then Waterloo and this museum should be on your to-do list.


Deb is one of many great employees of Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum. She welcomed us and explained the layout of the museum and how all their hands-on interpretative displays operated.

Just a short walk across the street is another world that the Grout Museum offers. The wind was just right for interactive science exhibits.

Katie and Nick (pictured above) were the perfect fit to greet Team Goodvin to the Grout’s Imaginarium. Fun, super passionate about science, and love to travel. They like travel blogs too. I directed them to a great website while we were there. We got to experience one of the most fun, educational, engaging museums that left the kids hungry for more science activities and hungry for food. Maybe a classic sandwich that could have bread that would be worth the trip to Waterloo all together. And wouldn’t know it….We found that sandwich.

Located at 1816 Williston Ave is the Balkan Cafe that features authentic Bosnian food.
You’ve found Clue #2 of 8! Click HERE to go back to the Scavenger Hunt page and see the next clue.


By the way. I fell in love while we were in Waterloo. Yes, it was with the Cevapi sandwich. A Bosnian classic. Tender chopped country steak with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and a tangy creamy sauce. That’s not even the best part. Before assembly, the bread is dipped into a stock of veal bones and then steamed on the flat top grill. It makes for an unbelievable flavor and texture that can’t be found anywhere else in the area.  Appetites properly  satisfied, we ventured off to our next museum. Let’s just say that nothing entertains your child like a Deere. I couldn’t wait to write that!

Not only does this museum tell the history of the John Deere Corporation, it shows the importance their facilities had on the shaping of Waterloo.

Sarah, Alex, and Shirley greeted us while some of their co-workers mingled and interacted with the tourists. We spent much of the late afternoon in John Deere land, but the evening was approaching and the girls wanted to some laps around the pool. Check in time to the newly constructed Fairfield Inn and Suites was upon us.

The supper train was calling and we wanted to visit an establishment that specialized in sourcing local ingredients. It’s not only a mission for us as a family to support Iowa small farms, but something we LOVE to feature in our blog. Waterloo was home to such a place and it features one of our favorite meals. We head to Rudy’s Tacos!

Rudy’s became a staple in Eastern Iowa and has created another following in Waterloo.
The home team supporting the home teams. Say hello to your local farmers that keep Rudy’s Tacos on the table!

If you love puppets, then you’ll love the decor at Rudy’s. If you know someone who doesn’t, you should bring them anyway for entertainment value. Sometimes a night of many tacos is all you need to be entertained. But we’re traveling and we want to do as the locals do for a bit. You like bowling alleys? You like vintage bowling alleys? Grab a polyester shirt and lucky ball and make plans to visit one of Iowa’s most iconic homes for smashing pins. It was galaxy night at Cadillac Lanes!

50 historic lanes, a full kitchen, pool tables, and bartenders serving up the suds all night long. And they’ve been doing it for years!
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Doubling as Umpa Lumpas by night and little girls from Hills, IA by day. It’s what happens when you enter a different galaxy at Cadillac Lanes.

We had a terrific night of slumber and we still had a couple more boxes to checkoff in Waterloo. We needed lunch and the locals spoke of a place that was perfect for a Sunday afternoon. A Waterloo institution that has great food and I could catch up on some NFL games to remind myself just how much I loathe my fantasy football team. Let’s head to LJ’s neighborhood.

The staff was buzzing around as their customers chowed on fresh food and cheered on their favorite team. LJ’s has many TVs and table side speakers you can adjust to hear the feed from any game.
I love wraps, I love walleye, and I love cheeks. LJ’s takes adorable little walleye cheeks and wraps them in a tasty garden tortilla. Gotta order something like that when I see it!

One more stop! It was rainy outside and we needed let some energy out. What better place than the the Phelps Youth Pavilion!

Located near downtown in the Waterloo Center for the Arts. The Phelps Youth Pavilion provides an entertaining opportunity to keep the kids active while throwing some education at them.
I let Gigi take my turn on the cow. I’m not good at chores. Even when we’re at the Phelps Youth Pavilion.

Our trip to Waterloo was a more than a success and we discovered oodles of opportunities to experience in 2016. The locals of Waterloo were excited to hear about our weekend and couldn’t wait to tell us about we should checkout on our next visit(s). This is always welcoming conversation when traveling and shows just how much civic pride is surging in the area. Lets just say that we’ve only had a sample of what we can enjoy here in Black Hawk County. Job well done, Waterloo!


And now for a very special thank you……

waterloo cvb
To Beth Keeney and everyone at the Waterloo CVB. Beth helped us with our plans and provided our room at one of Waterloo’s best hotels. Can’t wait to come back!
*Our stay here was complimentary. The opinions expressed on this blog post are of our own. To the staff of the newly constructed Fairfield Inn & Suites. We had a great stay and loved the new look!

Thanks for reading! -Team Goodvin

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